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Previous work showed that incorporation of dexamethasone (0.05 weight/weight percentage) into bupivacaine microspheres prolonged blockade by eight to 13 times compared with that produced by bupivacaine microspheres alone. The determinants of dexamethasone's block-prolonging effect were examined and reported here.Polylactic-co-glycolic acid polymer microspheres (65/35) with 75 weight/weight percentage bupivacaine were prepared. Microspheres were injected adjacent to the rat sciatic nerve, and sensory and motor blockade were assessed. A procedure was developed to test drugs for block-prolonging ability in vivo by placing test drugs in the injection fluid along with a suspension of bupivacaine microspheres.Dexamethasone alone in suspension did not produce blockade, nor did it prolong blockade induced by aqueous bupivacaine. Bupivacaine microspheres (150 mg drug/kg rat weight) produced blockade for 6 to 10 h. Dexamethasone in the suspending solution of microspheres prolonged block by up to five times. Glucocorticoids prolonged block in proportion to glucocorticoid/antiinflammatory potency. The corticosteroid antagonist cortexolone inhibited dexamethasone's blockade-prolonging action. Durations of blockade with or without dexamethasone were unaltered by hydroxyurea-induced neutrophil depletion. Microspheres were extracted from rats at time points ranging from 7 h to 7 days, and residual microsphere dry weight and bupivacaine content were similar in groups of rats injected with either bupivacaine microspheres or bupivacaine microspheres containing dexamethasone, respectively.Glucocorticoids prolong blockade from bupivacaine microspheres. The mechanism appears unrelated to the kinetics of bupivacaine release in vivo.